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Isil 'totally eliminated' in Syria: Caliphate destroyed in final stronghold -

Isil 'totally eliminated' in Syria: Caliphate destroyed in final strongholdThe last pocket of Islamic State territory has fallen, Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, marking the end of the group's "caliphate" four-and-a-half years after it was declared. "Total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate", Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, wrote on Twitter. "The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished." The SDF had Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) cornered in a patch of land smaller than one-mile-square in the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz, before finally dealing them defeat. A small number of Isil fighters, most of them foreign, refused to surrender and fought to the last.  Fighters of the SDF dance as they celebrate near the Omar oil field in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province after announcing the total elimination of Isil Credit: AFP An unfathomable number of people - mostly women and children related to Isil members - have streamed out of Baghuz in the past weeks. The Kurdish-led SDF said its fighters were surprised by the amount of civilians - which totalled more than 50,000 - cooped up in the small area that has been squeezed smaller and smaller by intermittent military offensives. For the last week, the SDF and US-led coalition has been pummeling the Baghuz pocket in the hope of bringing the battle to an end. Syrians on social media criticised the coalition for its heavy use of air strikes, after graphic photographs emerged purporting to show the charred bodies of women and children, as well as piles of corpses littering Baghuz. Isil had been given several chances by the SDF to evacuate out of safe passages. Those left at the end had rejected the offers and had effectively been using their families as human shields. There is no accurate estimate of how many were killed in the final stand. The end of Isil | Read more The battle took 1,737 days - four times longer than the liberation of western Europe from the Nazis. It took 100,000 bombs, two national armies, a band of militias, the might of the US, British and French air forces and a coalition of nearly 70 countries to defeat the jihadists. During their height they controlled territory spanning two countries that was roughly the size of Britain, imposing a radical and unforgiving interpretation of Islam over nearly 10 million people. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared an end to modern countries and called on supporters to join their jihadist utopia. Tens of thousands from all over the world came to live in the self-declared caliphate - the first in modern times. Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture the "V" for victory sign as they come back from the frontline in the Islamic State group's last remaining position in the village of Baghuz Credit: AFP Isil used their base in Syria and Iraq as launchpad for attacks around the globe, including the Paris attacks in 2015 which killed more than 130 people. At the same time, they began terrorising those they ruled over, carrying out large-scale massacres and public executions. While the battle may be over, questions still remain; such as the whereabouts of Baghdadi and the fate of a number of high-profile hostages including captured British journalist John Cantlie. There are rumours Baghdadi could be hiding out in the Anbar desert in western Iraq. While Isil has now lost all the urban territory they once held, it continues to have a presence in the desert of both Syria and Iraq. Photo Dispatch: The final days of the Isil caliphate Isil declared in an audio message from its spokesman this week that the group would not be weakened by any defeat in Baghuz and urged its followers across Syria to attack the SDF elsewhere in the country. "Avenge the blood of your brothers and sisters.. set up the )explosive) devices and deploy the snipers," said Abu Hassan al-Mujahir. The SDF too has warned the end of the physical caliphate did not mark the end of Isil. Isil sleeper cells have stepped up attacks on SDF forces in recent weeks, attacking areas where once they ruled. Local Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces fear a return of Isil once the US withdraws most of its 2,000 forces in April. US intelligence agencies have warned that the jihadists would likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory if sustained pressure is not maintained. Gen. Joseph Votel, who oversees US military operations in the Middle East as commander of Central Command, told Congress earlier this month that extremism in Iraq and Syria is a "generational problem." Iraqi Special Forces soldiers surveyed the aftermath of an Isil suicide car bomb that managed to reach their lines in the Andalus neighbourhood, one of the last areas to be liberated in east Mosul Credit: Ivor Prickett/The New York Times  Indeed it is not one that will likely be solved quickly. Tens of thousands of Isil suspects and their families are in prisons and camps in Iraq and Syria. Many have not been formally accused, others have been deemed guilty by association. It was in overcrowded camps like these that Baghdadi and a cadre of like-minded extremists formed a group that would later morph into Isil. The last to leave the final holdout expressed few regrets about how their jihadist project turned out, many continuing to pledge allegiance to a ruined caliphate they had already reconciled to losing. "Don't think we are surrendering," one woman leaving Baghuz told the Telegraph, "we are saving ourselves to rise again." Theresa May responded to the news of the defeat of Isil, also known as Daesh, saying in a tweet: "The liberation of the last Daesh-held territory wouldn’t have been possible without the immense courage of UK military and our allies. We will continue to do what is necessary to protect the British people, our Allies and partners from the threat Daesh poses." Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This has been a long campaign ending the misery of millions, as Daesh swept through Syria and Iraq, and came so close to taking the city of Baghdad. But due to the tireless efforts of our service personnel, we have been able to beat them back, depriving them of territory and making sure that Britain is safer. “But we cannot be complacent. They’ve dispersed, and they’ll continue to pose a threat to Britain, and that is why we will always remain vigilant.” Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph, the former head of the British Army echoed the Defence Secretary's comments, saying the focus must now shift to eradicating the underlying causes if Isil. “The territory that Isil controlled has all now been recaptured and that was inevitable," said General Lord Dannatt. "The idea of Isil, and the fundamentalism behind that, is going to continue for quite a long time. We have to accept that and continue to meet that wherever it rears its head again.” The former Chief of the General Staff said that the rise of groups such as al-Shabab in east Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria shows how terrorist groups can morph and resurface elsewhere around the world, given the right conditions. "That's what we're going to see for some time," he told the Telegraph.


Sat, 23 Mar 2019 06:06:35 -0400

China factory blast death toll jumps to 64, man rescued after 40 hours -

China factory blast death toll jumps to 64, man rescued after 40 hoursThe death toll in a chemical plant explosion in China rose to 64 Saturday but rescuers found a survivor among more than two dozen still missing in the debris of one of the country's worst industrial accidents in recent years. Thursday's explosion in the eastern city of Yancheng injured hundreds and flattened an industrial park. The local fire brigade pulled a man in his 40s from the rubble of the destroyed chemical plant around dawn on Saturday, according to a statement on the city government's official Weibo account.


Sat, 23 Mar 2019 01:57:42 -0400

New Zealand reopens mosques that were attacked; many 'march for love' -

New Zealand reopens mosques that were attacked; many 'march for love'At the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, prayers resumed with armed police on site, but no graphic reminders of the mass shooting, New Zealand's worst. Aden Diriye, who lost his 3-year-old son, Mucad Ibrahim, in the attack, came back to the mosque with his friends. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who visited the Al Noor mosque, said the attack assailed human dignity.


Sat, 23 Mar 2019 01:08:57 -0400

'I'm not a fan': Trump's grudge against John McCain continues even in death -

'I'm not a fan': Trump's grudge against John McCain continues even in deathThe president has had a long-running feud with the late senator, even resorting to attacking him posthumouslyDonald Trump drew criticism for his remarks on the late senator John McCain. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/APIn life and now in death John McCain continues to torment Donald Trump.Trump spent last week posthumously attacking the Arizona senator on Twitter, in interviews and in public remarks at an Army tank plant in Lima, Ohio.“He was horrible,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News on Friday, referring to McCain’s role in the defeat of legislation that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. “I’m not a fan of John McCain and that’s fine.”Despite pleas from senior Republicans to stop, Trump has continued his verbal assault on McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and six-term senator who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain died seven months ago from brain cancer.The origins of the Trump-McCain feud stretch back to the beginning of the 2016 presidential election. But their hostile relationship came to embody the battle for the soul of the Republican party – a fate sealed in the president’s favor by Trump’s victory and McCain’s death.Nearly a month after Trump launched his presidential bid from his hotel disparaging Mexicans as “rapists” and drug dealers in June 2015, he held a rally in Phoenix. McCain, never one to hold his tongue, had previously expressed disdain for the then-candidate’s rhetoric on immigration and the criticism had reportedly gotten back to Trump.During a stream-of-consciousness performance in Phoenix, Trump promised to “take our country back” and blamed “incompetent politicians” such as McCain for allowing illegal immigration to reach a crisis point.At the mention of the senator’s name, the crowd booed. Though McCain was beloved in his adopted home state, memorialized as it’s “most fascinating son”, McCain has long been more popular in Arizona with Democrats and independent voters than Republicans.Days later, McCain, who was running for re-election, said Trump’s comments on immigration “fired up the crazies”. Trump demanded McCain apologize – and then intensified his attack. He then claimed McCain graduated “last in his class” at Naval Academy – “dummy”. The accusation, which Trump has repeatedly leveled at the senator, is false: McCain graduated fifth from the bottom.Their dispute exploded into a full-blown feud when Trump told an audience in Iowa that McCain wasn’t a “a war hero because he was captured” and that he preferred “people that weren’t captured”.McCain spent more than five years in captivity in Vietnam after his plane was shot down in 1967. He refused an offer of early release. Trump received draft deferments during Vietnam for bone spurs.In October, McCain announced that he would not support Trump after the publication of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about grabbing women.Trump continues to identify McCain as a central antagonist of his presidency and the source of his greatest woes: blaming him for his role in presenting the FBI with an unverified intelligence report, the so-called “Steele dossier”, after the 2016 election. He has repeatedly and falsely blamed McCain for triggering special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. The FBI’s investigation actually began months before it received the “dossier”.The president has also held a grudge against McCain for his decisive vote against repealing the healthcare law. With a dramatic thumbs-down, he denied Trump the chance to fulfill one of his central campaign promises.When he died, McCain’s family requested that Trump not attend the funeral services in Arizona and Washington. Former presidents George Bush, who defeated McCain during the 2000 GOP nomination fight, and Barack Obama, who defeated him in 2008, delivered eulogies. For his part, Trump approved the military transport of McCain’s body, and, after much criticism, ordered the flags to half-staff.Trump’s remarks last week drew a smattering of public denunciations from elected Republican officials, who remain wary of antagonizing the president and his ferociously loyal supporters.Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina who is an ally of the president and was one of McCain’s closest friends, said: “I think the president’s comments about senator McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of senator McCain.”Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican of Georgia, called the remark, “deplorable” and said he would “continue to speak out” in his former colleagues defense. Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw, a former NAVY Seal, implored Trump to “seriously stop talking about Senator McCain”.Trump’s rolling commentary on McCain has confounded the late politician’s family and friends.“We only said goodbye to him almost 7 months ago,” his daughter Bridget McCain said in a rare public statement. “Even if you were invited to my dad’s funeral, you would have only wanted to be there for the credit and not for any condolences. Unfortunately, you could not be counted on to be courteous, as you are a child in the most important role the world knows.”


Sat, 23 Mar 2019 01:00:11 -0400

It Looks Like the Dodge Charger Is Getting a Widebody Variant -

It Looks Like the Dodge Charger Is Getting a Widebody VariantDodge shows off a "concept" version of its muscle sedan with a widebody setup like its Challenger sibling.


Fri, 22 Mar 2019 23:00:00 -0400


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